Cushman & Wakefield – Reshaping the World of Commercial Real Estate

Fuelled by ideas, expertise and experience, Cushman & Wakefield harnesses the best talent, technology, and forward-looking insights to prepare its people and clients for what’s next.

Cushman & Wakefield, headquartered in Chicago, is one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services firms. The company operates from over 400 offices in 60 countries, has around 50,000 employees and manages about 4.8 billion square feet of commercial space. In 2021, the firm generated a record revenue of US$9.4 billion by providing clients with the full array of commercial real estate services, everything from leasing, capital markets and project management to valuations, facilities and property management.

What began as a small family business in New York more than 100 years ago, is now a global player that was created from the merger of three large firms in 2015, and another 30 firms since then. Cushman & Wakefield today has established itself as a full-service global platform that can support clients in every corner of the planet. Asia Pacific has played a key role in the success of Cushman & Wakefield since the merger, with the company experiencing significant growth to become one of the largest commercial real estate services firms in the region.

This has been under the leadership of Matthew Bouw who became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cushman & Wakefield for Asia Pacific in late 2017 and has led the business through a number of major changes and challenges. He says: “It has been an amazing and exciting ride. If anything, we actually see growth accelerating across Asia Pacific for the remainder of this decade due in large part to the enormous demographic and economic tailwinds propelling the region.”

Sound Leadership

Matthew has been with the company for 11 years, following a diverse career across multiple continents and different industries, spanning from professional services to financial services, engineering to construction and mining services before finally coming to the commercial real estate sector. During his career, he has worked for some of the largest global and multinational firms in the world including PwC, Aviva and Orica.

As the CEO for Asia Pacific at Cushman & Wakefield, Matthew is now leading a diverse team of about 10,000 professionals working across 55 offices in 14 countries in the region, and together, they have contributed to the company’s impressive growth and strong financial performance in Asia Pacific.

He says:  “I love the job and I love the people I work with. When I first became CEO, I spent a huge amount of time building a world-class leadership team. That was my number one priority – to have the best athletes, who are self-motivated, operating in the right positions, and working together as a high-performing team. Generally speaking, if you get that right, the rest tends to look after itself.”

He explains that over the last four and a half years, the main focus has been on building an integrated full-service platform across the Asia Pacific region. “The world is shrinking, and the demands of our clients are becoming more globalised in their nature. So, a big part of what I have been focused on is building a full-service end-to-end platform across Asia Pacific to support the global business, and to embed a digital eco-system to capitalise on changing buying behaviours.”

“We have also focused on building infrastructure and capability within our platform to leverage the secular mega-trends which are having a huge impact on the demand for commercial real estate. As an example, e-commerce, supply chain and logistics with 5G technology, the Internet of Things, online streaming and shopping are driving unprecedented demand for data centres, distribution centres, robotic warehouses and last-mile logistics. We have very intentionally positioned Cushman & Wakefield so that we can benefit from and leverage global megatrends such as these to service our clients.”

Speaking about the firm’s differentiators and key strengths, Matthew highlights the aspects that have propelled the business’ growth over the last decade. “Unlike a number of other sectors, commercial real estate as an industry was late to globalise. There are really only three global commercial real estate firms that offer the full suite of services, and between us, we account for less than 20% of the global revenues for commercial real estate services. Consequently, this fragmentation will likely see the large global firms such as Cushman & Wakefield continue to grow rapidly.”

Technology-Driven

“Our industry is consolidating quickly and demand for commercial real estate continues to grow each year. You need to be able to service clients locally, nationally, regionally, and globally across all asset classes, supported by a strong technology backbone, with market-leading thought leadership and insight generated from property data and analytics. All of these elements form part of our global platform, which is a competitive advantage for us.”

“As a firm, we are also deeply client-centric – which is a core part of our DNA. I have been lucky to visit a large number of our offices across the world, and every employee I meet is myopically focused on bringing the best of Cushman & Wakefield to our clients. It might sound corny but it is a consistent thread across the firm that binds us all together, to be better, faster and smarter for our clients every day.”

As technology plays such a significant part in the company’s development, Cushman & Wakefield has entered into strategic partnerships with a number of companies that are at the forefront of technology. For example, the partnership with Matterport Capture Services, the market leader for spatial data capture, enables Cushman & Wakefield to offer clients a turnkey solution for scanning commercial properties in 3D. “Put simply, this technology provides the opportunity to showcase properties to prospective tenants and buyers in a virtual environment with dimensionally accurate digital twins. This has numerous benefits, including huge savings in terms of travel costs. Just think of a client sitting in San Francisco who can view office space in Sydney or Shanghai without leaving their desk.”

A partnership with FairFleet, a full-service provider for drone-powered solutions, has also enabled Cushman & Wakefield to offer drone services to its clients across the world. Through FairFleet’s worldwide network of certified local drone pilots, as well as its processing and analysis capabilities, Cushman & Wakefield professionals have quick access to drone footage and the ability to analyse the technical condition of individual properties through inspection services. This solution enables property and facility teams to provide building owners with an alternative to rooftop inspections to support ongoing and preventative maintenance. “Drones are providing enormous savings in terms of cost and efficiencies, not just for our industry but others too. One great example of this is the time-saving benefits from using drones to conduct a stock take. A recent study estimated that it takes approximately 80 people with handheld scanners and forklifts three days to complete a typical stock take of an average-size uniform warehouse. One drone can complete the same job in two days on its own without forklifts.”

Other technology partnerships that have been instrumental in strengthening Cushman & Wakefield’s service delivery platform include MetaProp, Plug and Play, Fifth Wall and Pupil. The company has also formed an exclusive strategic partnership with WeWork to deliver innovative flexible space solutions to landlords and businesses of which technology is a key component.

The Core Asset

While technology is a clear enabler, it is people who ultimately drive the growth and success of the business. This is another area that Cushman & Wakefield has invested heavily. “Talent management strategy and infrastructure is critical for the retention, development, and motivation of our people. We have a diverse employee population, from unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled to professional. Each area requires a bespoke strategy for training and development. Ultimately, we want every employee to have the tools, opportunities, and support to reach their individual potential, which includes helping an unskilled worker to become semi-skilled, then skilled and, assuming that is their goal and preference, to then move into a professional role. Seeing an employee progress is hugely rewarding, not just for the employee but for everyone involved in their development.”

Another area that Cushman & Wakefield has invested heavily in is the health and wellness of its employees and all things DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion). “We have a broad lens on DE&I, but we have a particularly strong focus on gender, Indigenous and LGBTIQA+ equality, disability, mental health and wellbeing.”

A good example is the company’s global employee resource group ‘Leading with Education and Awareness of Disabilities’ (LEAD). LEAD’s mission is to support colleagues affected by disability through peer-to-peer conversation, community building, opportunities encouraging networking and career growth, education, and awareness of resources. It also strives to support the recruitment of people with disabilities to bolster a more inclusive workplace benefitting from diverse life experiences.

Other initiatives include a global Women’s Integrated Network (WIN) that develops and supports the talents of women across the firm by providing a platform that values diverse perspectives and leverages leadership skills to benefit the firm, its clients, and the industry as a whole. There are currently 48 Cushman & Wakefield WIN chapters across the world, of which eight are in Asia Pacific. Additionally, Cushman & Wakefield continues to sponsor the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) network, whose mission is to transform the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. CREW is the largest network of women in the world and back in October 2016, Cushman & Wakefield sponsored CREW to expand its membership outside of the United States for the first time.

For the second consecutive year, Cushman & Wakefield was recognised for its efforts to advance gender equality, being named to Forbes Best Employers for Women 2021. Across the company, women represent 42% of people managers, 40% of new hires, 39% of the total workforce and 33% of the Board of Directors.

“We also have a Cushwake Cares programme focused on the wellbeing of not just the employees but also their families, dealing with issues like stress, anxiety, healthy lifestyle and other similar issues which were especially important during the pandemic.”

As a responsible member of the communities in which it operates in, Cushman & Wakefield is also actively involved in local programmes that support its inclusivity agenda. In Australia, the company has been a strong supporter of Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of lights, music, and ideas. This year, Cushman & Wakefield partnered with Taronga Zoo as the inaugural access and inclusion partner for the Wild Lights at Taronga Zoo festival, where it showcased four purpose-built light installations and hosted a special event for 3,000 visitors, including children with special needs and their families.

In India, Cushman & Wakefield is a financial sponsor for the Latika Roy Foundation, an Indian not-for-profit organization that provides specialised services to disabled children, adults, and their families. The company is also the lead partner to project manage the build of their new, state-of-the-art school for children with special needs in Dehradun, India.

The company’s commitment to inclusion is also alive in Singapore, through its partnership with SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling people with disabilities.

“We firmly believe that wonderful programmes such as these are an important ingredient for the type of culture we want for the organisation. Not only do we want Cushman & Wakefield to be a fun place to work, with abundant opportunities for our people to work across multiple service lines in 400 different offices across the world, but we also want to be a firm that goes the extra mile to support its people, their families and the communities in which we operate in,” says Matthew.

Office of the Future

The company’s approach to deploying the latest technologies with a heavy emphasis on human wellbeing has been well reflected in its latest milestone – the launch of its new office premises at CapitaSpring, a new integrated development located within Singapore’s Central Business District, and the opening of C&W Services Singapore’s newly-transformed office at ESR Business Park in May and March 2022, respectively.

Both offices showcase the future of the workplace with an emphasis on sustainability, smart technology, and DE&I as well as the requirements of a post-pandemic office.

Matthew says: “The design and fit-out of our two new offices in Singapore put our people at the centre. By incorporating the feedback and findings from our bespoke ‘Experience per SF™’ tool, we have built a workplace that addresses the changes in the post-pandemic business environment and the evolving needs of our clients and the next-generation workforce.”

He further affirms that Cushman & Wakefield is embracing sustainability. With roughly 40% of global carbon emissions coming from commercial real estate (CRE) buildings, sustainability has become not only a priority but a mandate, for many companies. As a top CRE services firm, Cushman & Wakefield is leading the way with its pledge to reach net zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2050, and a 50% reduction in scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions across its corporate offices and operations by 2030.

Interestingly, Cushman & Wakefield has been providing sustainability related services to its clients for more than 20 years. In Asia Pacific alone, the firm now has 60 dedicated sustainability professionals. This area of the business is growing rapidly as more and more clients seek Cushman & Wakefield’s help to evaluate the carbon footprint of their property portfolios, and then develop strategies to reduce emissions.

Looking Ahead

Since Cushman & Wakefield merged the company back in 2015, it has been active in the M&A (mergers and acquisitions) space. Last year, the company invested US$650 million and continues to assess further opportunities in what is a highly fragmented market.

Speaking about acquisitions, Matthew says: “We are very selective when assessing a potential acquisition target. Amongst other things, the company must be market-leading in its field, with the right cultural attributes, whilst meeting a strategic area of focus that further strengthens our platform.”

Apart from acquisitions, there are two other areas of substantial investment: technology and people. “Recruiting talent for a business such as ours is hugely important. Our approach to talent acquisition has changed over the last four years to become a well-oiled machine built on best practices. As a result, we can assess and hire the best talent quicker and more effectively than ever before.”

Confirming his words, last year, Cushman & Wakefield was named World’s Best Real Estate Advisor and Consultant by Euromoney for the fourth consecutive year. The same accolade was also won in the Asia Pacific region. “The recognition from Euromoney is a fitting reward for our teams’ ongoing commitment and laser focus as they support and service our clients, whilst raising the bar for professionalism in our industry,” he acknowledges.

“I would like to offer a huge thanks to both our teams in recognition of their hard work and our clients for their ongoing support and the trust they place in us every day. Our wins in Asia Pacific and globally underscore our approach to providing best-in-class quality client services across all markets worldwide.”

More like this